What do you need to know Mum is OK?

Monitoring activity of elderly relatives.

This is a brief study of what actually needs to be measured in an elderly persons home to ensure they are OK.  It has to be remembered that CareBubble is designed for people who are feeling vulnerable, and are in danger of falling, just because of their age.  CareBubble can help tremendously with people with age related mental issues, like alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, as we have proved in our our circumstances but it is primarily for people who are, I repeat:

“Feeling Vulnerable”.

Very often, with age comes a stubborn streak.  I know, I am starting to have one too. however, it is worth noting that just because someone stubbornly refuses to have any help, it does not mean that they do not need it.  Also, as a carer, you might well be worried about someone, and they refuse to have anything in their home to help you feel better about their safety.

This is all very well,  but it is not just about them.  It is also about you.  If you are constantly worried that something may happen to them  and this is particularly true if they are either ill or have just suffered a bereavement, then they need to be aware that you are suffering too, and that by having some simple life monitoring in place, it will mean that you can sleep better too.

So what do we need to monitor?

Here is a list of some of the signals that we might want to measure, and/or the tools for measuring.

Video, sound, movement, temperature, light, power use, doors opening closing, cupboard use, water flow, fall detectors, smoke alarms, heat detectors,  nocturnal enuresis detection, bed use, Call for aid button etc etc.

Lets go through the advantages and disadvantages one at a time.

Video Camera.

Personally I cannot think of anything more intrusive than a camera in my home. while it might be seen as a good way of keeping an eye on someone, it is without doubt one of the most degrading ways of “helping” someone that I can imagine.  It can only be considered spying, and if you need to see someone to see how they are moving about, and coping, then get up and go and see them.  I have very little in the way of tolerance for this as an idea.

Sound.

This is something that has its advantages, but in some respects can be seen as little better than video from a privacy point of view.  The idea of an elderly person having an Amazon Echo in their house, is certainly appealing in one respect, but the privacy issues do need to be considered carefully, and I think generally they are likely to be considered with mistrust, and understandably.  An echo could, with the right “skills” be used for contacting carers, but it requires a lot of setting up, broadband, and a certain amount of Geek interest to get, and then keep working.

On the other side of the argument, the ability to measure sound, and while not “listening in” to words, listening in for activity does have some plausible arguments going for it.

Movement.

This is the first of the truly no invasive measurements, that has not true impact on personal privacy.  This is because it does not watch or listen, it is only really saying”someone” is there.  Because of that, it is not possible on its own to be able to differentiate between two people, only that a person has been present at a point.  This is actually what anonymises it, and why it is so much more acceptable in the home. After all, we are used to the alarm system PIR in the corner of every room, so this is really no different.  however, in a one person house, it is reasonable to accept that if there is movement, the individual is indeed OK.  This is because if it is them, they are up and about, and if it is not them, then the person that is being recorded will be checking everything is OK.

as an aside, If the person is at risk from attack, then these are not the tools to protect them!

Temperature.

We cover this on nearly every page of our blog, as it is key to staying alive in the UK.  Simply over 200 people per day die from cold in the winter months. This is not from hyperthermia.  This is because for temperatures below 18 degrees your blood starts to move from your extremities to your core.  The body then removes the water from your blood, your blood thickens, and so you have increased chances of either having a stroke or a heart attack.  Of course with harder arteries, and poorer circulation to start with, the elderly are the ones who suffer from this. So measuring temperature is absolutely vital in an older persaons home, particularly in the winter.

Of course in the summer, once over 65, we find it more difficult to get ride of the extra heat in our bodies. So the reverse is true, and the elderly are more likely to suffer some sort of heat stroke.  Therefore, it is good to know when they are getting too hot.  not because we can make the day cooler, but it might be a clue to install air conditioning, or check on them to ensure they are drinking plenty of fluids.

On a personal note, my father in law would keep turning off the heating, so we kept getting an alert to say that it was too cold. Without a temperature monitor, who knows how much longer it would have been too cold in his house.

Light.

I guess it is good to know that a light is being turned on or off. A light meter might tell us when curtains are opened in the summer.  But in reality, because the light varies so much from season to season, what works as a measure in the winter is difficult to use in the summer.  On top of that, the amount of light (in lumens ) from the sun is huge compared to the pitiful light we get from a light bulb.  Because our eyes adapt so well to it, we are not really aware of the difference, but for a light meter, the difference is enormous.   Because of this CareBubble do not currently see light as a relevant thing to measure.

Power Usage

We think this is a very powerful tool . This is because there are certain habits we all have.  For my Dad it was his morning porridge cooked in the microwave.  For me it is toast in the toaster, and for my Mum it is her morning cup of tea. My father in law used to have a morning cuppa, but for those of you living with dementia, you know that these things keep changing. We eventually put the power meter on his TV, and so we knew that he was in at night, and turning it off before bed.  But then he stopped turning it on or off, and just leaving the TV on. That was when we were very glad that we also monitored movement in the hall.  So power is certainly useful, but measuring it does not capture many issues.

Door opening and closing.

I believe that if we need to measure this, then the person being monitored has gone to another stage of vulnerability. It probably means they have dementia and you are concerned that they are going out, and might not be able to find there way home again.  They are not yet ready for a home, but you need to know they are out, and how long they have been out, to know if they have just nipped to the Post Office, or have gone on a bigger expedition they might need help getting back from.   The good news is that the people of this country are usually great at spotting  people out and lost, and doing what they can to help them find their way home.   With a motion sensor inside the house door sensors can be a great comfort, knowing that Dad is in tonight.

Cupboard Use.

It is interesting to note that no one uses this to my knowledge at present, but we found this monitor a great way of adding to the data from the power source.  Lets say Dad has not had porridge today.  He is not feeling great, and so has just had some orange juice.  A monitor on the fridge door, or on a cupboard, will tell you that he is still eating or drinking, but is not having is usual routine.  It can be a great way of being able to ask questions about your loved ones day, and knowing if things are not quite right when you next call them, or visit them.

Call for Aid Button

A call for aid button has its place.  As the likely hood of falling over over 65 increases to once ever 3 years, by the time you are 75 or 80, you will have most likely stumbled a few times, and be aware that it can happen again.  The fear that goes with that if you are living on your own, is what happens if I cannot get up?  Of course the reality is it rarely happens, mostly you can get up, and mostly you are fine. So do you really want to be spending another £10 per month on yet another gadget?  Thats why CareBubble is looking to integrate the Call for aid button as an extra to the system.  Instead of going to a call centre with a nameless person at the end of the phone, the CareBubble one is planned to be a simple robust button that you press to call, and the carer will then do what they think necessary to get to you.

All the others, are devices that at present CareBubble does not have in development, so I will not go into at present, but as you can appreciate the care of our elders can be greatly improved by some of these monitored, and their privacy and dignity removed by others.

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